Ligue 1 weekend preview: Paris Saint-Germain must plan for life without Neymar

There is a Neymar-shaped cloud hovering over Ligue 1 at the moment but that cloud could be about to clear as the world’s most expensive player edges closer to a return to the Nou Camp.

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Thomas Tuchel’s side are surprisingly not top of a league they have won six of the last seven years.

This week they face Metz, so can they catch leaders Rennes this week? 

There is a Neymar-shaped cloud hovering over Ligue 1 at the moment as he is close to leaving

There is a Neymar-shaped cloud hovering over Ligue 1 at the moment as he is close to leaving

FRIDAY

Metz v PSG – BT Sport 3 7.45pm

Neymar is all they are talking about in Paris but Tuchel’s side will be back focusing on matters on the pitch when they travel to Metz on Friday evening.

Metz’s post-promotion bubble was well and truly burst last weekend when Angers put three past them last Saturday, but as Rennes have shown this is a PSG outfit that can be got at on the road.

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The last time the capital outfit visited Stade Saint-Symphorien it was birth of ‘MCN’ – the first occasion on which Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Neymar had all appeared together.

This time around, not one will be available, with the hosts arguably in possession of the most potent attacking option in Habib Diallo – who has three goals in his first three Ligue 1 appearances this season. 

SATURDAY 

Lyon v Bordeaux

After a flying start, Lyon’s early Ligue 1 surge hit the buffers with a disappointing 1-0 defeat at Montpellier on Tuesday.  

Youssouf Kone will miss the game through suspension after he was sent off in the second half of that game, after elbowing and then headbutting Andy Delort. 

Sylvinho’s side will be buoyed by a decent Champions League draw, which saw them drawn against Zenit, Benfica and RB Leipzig, leaving them with every chance of reaching the latter stages.

For now though, they must rediscover the form that saw them become the first club in the league’s history to register a goal difference of +9 after two rounds of fixtures, against a Bordeaux side looking more and more composed under Paulo Sousa. 

The introduction of Laurent Koscielny at the back has added some much-needed calmness at the back, as was demonstrated in their victory against Dijon last time out.  

Youssouf Kone was sent off for Lyon with 40 minutes of the game to go last week
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Youssouf Kone was sent off for Lyon with 40 minutes of the game to go last week

Youssouf Kone was sent off for Lyon with 40 minutes of the game to go last week

Toulouse v Amiens 

Amiens preparations for this week’s encounter with Toulouse has been hit by a transfer saga that has seen Iranian winger Saman Ghoddos banned for four months.

The French club have been caught up in the crossfire between Ghoddo’s previous club Ostersunds and Spanish outfit Huesca.

The teams had an agreement in place for the transfer of the 25-year-old last summer, only for the player and the Swedish side to cancel the deal, in favour of doing a deal with Rennes. That never materialised, and Amiens swooped in instead. 

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While FIFA have insisted that there was no wrongdoing on Amiens’ part, they will now be without their winger until January, while Ostersunds have been ordered to pay Huesca €4m in damages. 

Add to this the fact that Bakaye Dibassy is suspended after his sending off last time out, and it’s hardly ideal preparation for Luka Elsner and his side, as they face a Toulouse side looking to pick themselves up from defeat at PSG.   

Angers v Dijon

Angers are the league’s Jekyll and Hyde outfit this season, but they’ll fancy their chances at home to a ropey Dijon side.

At home, they’ve been unstoppable, scoring three on both occasions so far in two comfortable victories, but the 6-0 hammering at Lyon will still be a cause for some alarm. 

However, Dijon’s frontline have been worryingly toothless in comparison, scoring just once in their opening three fixtures and are yet to pick up a point.

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They appear the early favourites for relegation, and the longer they go without a point, the more concern there’ll be for Stephane Jobard’s side. 

There have been 13 goals across Angers' first three matches of the new Ligue 1 campaign

There have been 13 goals across Angers' first three matches of the new Ligue 1 campaign

There have been 13 goals across Angers’ first three matches of the new Ligue 1 campaign

Nimes v Brest

Bernard Blaquart’s side were involved in a 2-2 thriller against Monaco last week, showing some heart to come from two goals down. 

It was a welcome point for the Les Crocodiles, who have had to navigate a tricky start to the season that has included clashes with Nice and PSG already. 

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They face a Brest side whose 1-0 win against Reims last weekend was marred by supporter chanting that forced the referee to suspend the game midway through.   

That led Brest to release a statement condemning the actions of their ultras. That has also led Nimes to issue one of their own to their fans ahead of the game, hoping to avoid similar scenes this weekend.  

Nantes v Montpellier – BT Sport 2 Extra, 7pm

Both these sides picked up their first win of the season on matchday three, but Montpellier will feel at a disadvantage as they feel the effects of the fallout of the G7 summit.

Forced to play Lyon on Tuesday, Michel Der Zakarian’s men have had a short turnaround ahead of this match, compared to Saturday evening’s opponents.

Nantes have seen two of their younger stars called up to the France Under 21s squad this week and one of them, 20-year-old Imran Louza, spoke about Montpellier ahead of Saturday’s clash.

‘We saw their game against Lyon. They’re quite a solid team. We know that this will be a very important match for us.

‘We have to build on our win against Amiens.’  

SUNDAY 

Rennes v Nice

Not many people would have said Rennes would be top of the charts after three games played. 

But they followed up their incredible victory over Paris Saint-Germain with a comfortable 2-0 win against Strasbourg to lead the way.  

Nice lost their 100 per cent record on Wednesday evening courtesy of a 2-1 defeat by Marseille, but their is reason for optimism for Patrick Vieira’s side.

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The confirmation of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s takeover has been followed by a spending spree that has seen Kasper Dolberg, Alexis Claude-Maurice and Adam Ounas all through the door.

And there could be more to come before the transfer deadline on Monday. 

Not many people would have said Rennes would be top of the charts after three games played

Not many people would have said Rennes would be top of the charts after three games played

Not many people would have said Rennes would be top of the charts after three games played

Stade Reims v Lille – BT Sport 2,  2pm

All eyes will once again be on one man as Ligue 1’s hottest property looks to add to his four goals so far this season.

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Victor Osimhen has enjoyed a spectacular start to life at Lille, following up his double from the opening weekend with two well-taken strikes in the 3-0 victory over Saint-Etienne on Wednesday. 

Signed from Belgian outfit Charleroi this summer, he has filled the void left by Nicolas Pepe and then some, and will be out to do more damage against Reims, who have struggled in front of goal since their opening day shock win against Marseille. 

Victor Osimhen is scoring goals for fun for Lille after Nicolas Pepe's departure to Arsenal

Victor Osimhen is scoring goals for fun for Lille after Nicolas Pepe's departure to Arsenal

Victor Osimhen is scoring goals for fun for Lille after Nicolas Pepe’s departure to Arsenal

Strasbourg v Monaco – BT Sport 2, 4pm

Consumed so far by their Europa League exerts, Strasbourg now must put behind them the disappointment of missing out on the group stages after their defeat by Eintracht Frankfurt.

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They’ve yet to win this season in the league, and may fear a European hangover against a Monaco reinforced with some big names this summer.  

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Leonardo Jardim has forced the former champions to get the cheque book out, and saw two of his new signings – Islam Slimani and Wissam Ben Yedder – grab goals against Nimes before their second-half collapse.

He’ll be hoping the business isn’t done yet either. With Radamel Falcao looking set for a move to Turkey, there is still some hope at the Stade Louis II stadium that they can pull off the capture of Mauro Icardi before the window closes.  

Marseille v Saint-Etienne – BT Sport 1, 8pm

Finally, Andre Villas-Boas is off the mark at Marseille after a 2-1 win at Nice. 

It was a relief, too, for Dario Benedetto, who made up for his penalty miss against Nantes by grabbing the opener against Patrick Vieira’s men on Wednesday.  

They’ll fancy their chances of adding to that on Sunday evening, when Saint-Etienne visit.

Les Verts have not claimed victory at the Stade Velodrome in 40 years, last winning their on August 10, 1979.

Twenty-four trips have been made since then without victory. After a 3-0 hammering from Lille last time out, optimism for ending that  torrid run may be thin on the ground.  

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